How to develop self-discipline as a freelancer

If you’re sick of of the 9–5 rat race and office bureaucracy, freelancing can be the perfect escape. You can set your own hours, work from your own bed…No more packed lunches or hasty trips to the supermarket at lunch time because you can just have a cheeky snack whenever you like. Best of all, you can do all of this while binging on as much Netflix as your heart desires! But with the wrong attitude, these perks can end up really holding you back and ruin any hope of productivity. To succeed as a freelancer, you really need to develop self-discipline too.

Keep regular hours

Working at home isn’t always an excuse to stay in bed till noon. In fact, there are lots of advantages to keeping office hours:

  • If you start working at 4pm, you’ll probably have to carry on working until late in the evening. If you start at the usual 9am, you can finish way earlier. This makes it easy to divide your time between work and play. Remember that when you’re working from home, work-life balance can be hard to achieve otherwise — simply because they both happen in the same place.
  • Working 9–5 means you’re in sync with corporate clients. It’ll make project management more efficient if you’re both available to talk at the same times of day.
  • You can set contact hours. If a client gets used to you emailing back at midnight, they’re going to expect that all the time. If you make it clear from the offset that you work between 9 and 5, you can set clear boundaries and really switch off from work.

Similarly, try not to take too many random days off for a trip to the beach. You might feel smug putting off all your work until the weekend until you realise all your 9–5 friends will be out having fun then!

(This all said, the odd lie-in never hurt anyone.)

Get dressed and leave your room

As idyllic as working in your pyjamas sounds, I can guarantee you won’t be as productive as you imagine. Ultimately, having the self-discipline to get dressed every day puts you in the right mindset to start work. If you’re in your pyjamas, you’ll just be more tempted to laze around. There’s also the risk that you’ll finally go to bed and have the horrible realisation that you now associate your pyjamas with work, which can really ruin their appeal.

For similar reasons, your bed is not a good place to work. Designate a work space. Trying to work in bed is a guaranteed way to fall asleep and wake up 6 hours later wondering what century you’re in.

Sure they look comfy — but do they look productive?

Break it down

Self-discipline means managing your time well. So plan. Spending all day on the same thing can be soul-destroying, so if you can spend time on a few different projects in a day. You can make this easier by breaking projects down into more manageable tasks and setting yourself a few of those tasks in a day.

Take breaks too — it’s impossible to work constantly, but planned breaks are better than aimless procrastination.

Multi-tasking is a no no

Although watching TV and designing a website simultaneously sounds perfect in theory, it’s normally just stressful. You’re trying to focus on both and all that means is you have no idea why Walter White is in an RV and the website looks like something you plucked off Geocities in the 90s. Everything will just take twice as long to finish.

When you’re working, work. You’ll be able to enjoy your free time so much more!

Don’t overdo it

Self-discipline isn’t just about avoiding procrastination. It’s also about knowing when to stop. If you find yourself working 16 hour days as the norm, you’re probably a bit of a workaholic. Know when to switch off. It might be helpful finding a co-working space that has strict hours and working there instead of home, so there’s a physical boundary between work and play.

The secret to self-discipline

Sadly, the secret to self-discipline is being your own boss…Which means acting like a boss would. If you wouldn’t do it at work, don’t make a habit of doing it at home!


Originally published at blog.twine.fm on September 20, 2016.